Perfect Gentleman The (1935)
Directed by Tim Whelan and written by Edward Childs Carpenter this average B movie comedy drama features Frank Morgan in the title role one which seems perfect for the kind of characters he’s know to play. Major Horatio Chatteris (Morgan) is a “B.S.” artist of the highest degree. With no means of support he’s developed a charming persona and a rhetoric filled with colorful stories which enable him to manipulate the kindness of others to stay one step ahead of his creditors (one is played by Herbert Mundin). However his past is catching up with him and when this threatens his divinity school graduate son’s (Richard Waring) ability to obtain his own parish and marry his sweetheart (Heather Angel) the Major promises to find a way to correct the situation. Cicely Courtneidge Una O’Connor and Henry Stephenson (among others) play important supporting roles.
The note which enabled John Chatteris (Waring) and his Aunt Harriet (O’Connor) to continue to live in their home while John completed divinity school has come due. John’s father and Harriet’s brother the Major who secured the loan is no where to be found. The shortfall threatens John’s ability to receive a parish assignment from the Bishop (Stephenson) and his ability to marry Evelyn Alden (Angel). Meanwhile the Major (Morgan) is in London drinking in a pub on credit he doesn’t have. Across the street one of his creditors (to whom he owes 47 pounds) Frederick Hitch (Mundin) is at the Major’s resident where his landlord hasn’t been paid either. When the Major returns to the apartment he is evicted and has to return home to his son & sister. Unfortunately he enters at a time when the Bishop is visiting with Lady Pembrook (Mary Forbes). The Major is a bit too bombastic and crude for the Bishop’s taste causing his sister to cringe though amusing his soon-to-be daughter-in-law Evelyn whom he’s just met. The tea ends badly and after receiving a “telling to” from Harriet the Major promises to find a job to settle the debts and pay for his son’s wedding.
On his way to London the Major meets April Maye (Courtneidge) a singer who hopes to make it in London. She’s an independent woman of marginal talent who’s not as gullible as most others are when she hears the Major’s “song & dance”. However she’s not confident about her ability to win over the tough London audiences so she’s grateful for his promise to support her in her debut. Initially her performance doesn’t go very well but the Major in the audience shouts down the rude patrons and joins her on stage. After giving them some of his bluster together the Major and Miss Maye perform a patriotic number which wins the crowd over. They will go on to become a big success the combination of her serious singing with his comedic touches. Hitch happened to be in the crowd that first night and tracks the Major down when he’s dining with April. She returns the favor by saving the Major from jail and eliminating his debt.
The Major & Miss Maye return to his home in their own chauffeured limousine. It just so happens that an auction fund raiser is being held for the church. After initially improving his stature with the Bishop by buying an item for an exorbitant price for charity the Major destroys this positive impression when he & April take over the auction. Though their intent was to help fetch better prices for the old merchandise unfortunately they end up breaking most of the things they try to sell. The film devolves into a series of slapstick events the last one ending the auction. Later Harriet visits the Major in London to tell him that his lifestyle with the unmarried Miss Maye is scandalous enough to ruin her son preventing him from becoming a vicar etc.. She makes him feel selfish to the point that he ends his business association with April and sends a check for 50 pounds to his son so that he can marry his fiancée.
*** SPOILERS ***
At their reception Evelyn toasts her absent father-in-law who is now walking the streets once again alone and penniless. However the Major then notices a sign for April’s next show and decides to attend it. Meanwhile she has learned from Evelyn about the Major’s sacrifice. She regrets having not accepted his proposal of marriage some time earlier. After the Major figures out a way to worm his way into seeing April’s successful new stage show complete with choreographed marching soldiers he comes to her dressing room. The two reunite with April proposing to the Major this time and naturally he accepts.